Discovering Inward Significance through Indian Modern Art

Over time Indian art has been host to a lot of emotions, mythological significance, and cultural representation. And while it has been representing all this, one of the most controversial yet surreal Indian art is modern art which has been revolutionizing us and the entire world since the nineteenth century.


Some of the greatest artists have since then been representing our heritage and our ethos through the medium of canvas painting. Illustrating even the most complex of situations and feelings with the stroke of their brushes and under the layer or the oil paints.


While modern Indian art saw many artists claim their grounds and be known for their epic work of painting, some still confuse this with the subject of outward significance. To put things in perspective, Indian painting has an exceptionally long history in India's tradition, cultural sentiments and religious beliefs influence different styles of Indian art and paintings.  


Indian art paintings have moved away from being beautiful and skilled to gorgeous and insightful.  They started moving from traditional art to modern art and then to contemporary art.  The well renowned artists as well as the new genre one’s paint on several themes depicting diverse cultures and societies in the form of contemporary art.


In a country with 22 official languages, it is rather hard to create a painting with what pleases the eyes, because there is a lot more that happens beneath the surface. The oil paints or colours are the mere deceptions of what constitutes the Modern Indian Art   which has been the centre of multiple discussions for the past two centuries; trying to decipher the deep emotions that seep into every thread of the canvas of these art-rich paintings. 


What started with the Britishers and the East India Company, gave courage to the modern artists to express their repressed emotions and feelings.  As reaction to this, some sensitive artist observed and theorized that the revival and extension of the Indian traditional techniques of making painting can change the picture of Indian art. The birthed a movement towards modern Indian painting grew were the existing Western academic art education, which seemed against the grain of the Indian psyche; this growing wave of Orientalism influencing European art and thought, as well as the political climate and its urgent issue of national identity, by and large reflected in the Swadeshi Movement. At this point, E.B. Havell, with Rabanindranath Tagore and others created a movement to revive the neglected Indian cultural heritage.  In 1896, E.B. Havell was appointed the Principal of the Calcutta Government College of Art.


Meanwhile he had delved deep into Indian Lore and culture and was deeply anguished over the decay and degeneration of Indian art, culture, and artistic taste.  He harped on the necessity of an intimate acquaintance with the past tradition of the country and of recapturing their glories. He was instrumental in rediscovering the artistic and educational relevance of the ancient Indian cultural ethos and seeing it in relation to modern art. Rejection of the western realism almost meant a nostalgic sentimental carving for idealized past and withdrawal from the grim present into an imaginary world of pastoral peace. The paintings of Ajanta and Bagh, Mughal, Rajput and Pahari miniatures provided the model.  Artists like Raja Ravi Varma had set the foundation for other artists to amalgamate oil pastels with our vivid heritage.


Each of his paintings even during that time had simplicity which when unwrapped revealed the onset of revolution and suppression. Even though they depicted, women draped in orange clothes, or sometimes he presented scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharat they all served as a contribution to preserve our heritage and represented culture, society, women at different times throughout our history.


While all this was before Independence, the post-independence phase saw an even more aggressive phase of Modern Indian art. The Progressive Artists Group then represented new India in its post-colonial times.


That is when modern Indian art moved to further inwardness because then it was beyond our history, it then represented the tensions that existed in the society, between men and women, a different disparity that played out in the society.


This phase saw many artists contribute to this agenda, their paintings though only had primary colours, depicted emotions of their character, subjective nature of the society, and the colours at times represented the mood of that time. Indian art has always been a hologram for inward significance due to the multiple phases India has been through which its artists have very skilfully represented on their canvases.


In the wise words of Aristotle, "the aim of art is not to represent the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance". This is true for Indian art, and now it has been an even more evocative way of depicting what our society has been going through. 


An incredibly famous modern artist of our time is M.F. Hussain whose artwork was progressive even for today's time. The colour schemes and the overall feel of the painting lacked detailing, which was important at that time because even our society then lacked definition. 


His being the founding member of the Progressive Artist Groups and being a thorough traveller made sure that while on the surface his paintings lacked the definition, form, symmetry it still captured the essence he wished to portray through his paintings. 


Sachin Jaltare is also another artist who mixed the vibrancy and divineness of colours with the abstractness of his mind. His painting though dark in nature had deeply rooted causes which made him a contemporary modern artist. Even his paintings took time to be recognized in the society and the community of modern artist groups.


Often people find it difficult to interpret these complex creations but that is their beauty that in their complexity lies the utmost simple and unembellished truth of the present and the past. But the sad part is that while the modern artists paint their hearts and souls out on their canvases, the society still falls short in understanding their emotions and creativity.


That's why Indian Modern Art can never be termed as outward, it is not about the colours which please the eye or is liked by all but it's what lies beyond these colours and lines.  It’s the significance of the ethos that proliferates and progresses over time.  There is a depiction of soul and life in every Indian modern Art.  


If you are an art admirer with interest in       Indian Painting has something unique to offer for you!  

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Also see albums of

1. Ajanta Caves Paintings

2. Pattachitra paintings, Raghurajpur Odisha

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